Once & Future by Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy (Review)

“That’s what resistance looks like, Merlin. It’s not one glorious, shining victory. It’s a torch that you keep burning, no matter what.”

I requested Sword in the Stars on Netgalley, not realising that it was the second in a series, so once I got accepted I picked up the first one and thought I’d give it a try. I’m so glad I did. This series is so funny, and you can just tell that the authors had a lot of fun writing it.

Rating: 5 stars!

Read me for the:

  • space gays space gays space gays
  • space gays overthrow the capitalist monopoly
  • King Arthur’s back, and this time she’s got no time for your shit
  • Merlin’s back, and this time he’s… seventeen?
  • Wacky magic space adventure

The plot:

Ari Helix is on the run from the tyrannical Mercer corporation. When they chase her into the preserved Old Earth, she ends up pulling a weird sword from a weird stone and reveals that, somehow, she’s the reincarnation of King Arthur and Excalibur has a fate for her. Merlin wakes up from a deep sleep, again, and he’s getting younger with every reincarnation. It’s been centuries now, and he’s a teenager now, ready to break the cycle that keeps reincarnating Arthur and end this once and for all.

What did I think?

This book was pure chaos. It’s also pure comedy, mixed in with real and fierce criticism of everything from capitalism to twenty-first century lgbtq+phobia. The whole thing had a wacky space opera vibe to it. If you like the tone of Hitchiker’s Guide or Monty Python, but you want diverse LGBT characters? You’re gonna love this book. It’s fast-paced, and no holds barred, and it does not shy away from criticising everything. It fires shots at capitalist monopolies, twenty-first century attitudes towards trans identities, sexualities and equal rights, and even the way that Hollywood white-washes history.

This book is queer as hell. It’s diverse in every way. Most, if not all of the characters are LGBT+ in some way, and they come from a society that means twenty-first century heteronormative attitudes are totally alien to them. I live for sci-fi and fantasy that totally ignores our own world’s shitty attitudes because there’s absolutely no need for them to be carried across to fantasy and science fiction worlds. They’re also really thirsty – and I mean that in the best way possible. This book is full of characters being hot for each other, and everyone around them, and I absolutely live for friends flirting with their friends. My friendship group is super-queer and we do the same flirting shamelessly thing that I love to see it in books I read. The characters are racially diverse too, and I can’t talk too much about Ari’s Arab-settled planet but the way that Ketch, and Ketchans, are treated is a powerful parallel to xenophobic policies that aren’t as historical as we’d like them to be. Ari, Merlin and her knights are found-family goals, and I want to read thousands of books about people like them. They’re also the most determined bunch I’ve read about in forever, and I love the way that they refuse to stay down when Mercer knocks them. I can’t talk about her too much without spoilers, but Morgana’s interpretation in Once & Future is one of my favourite versions of her ever.

Mercer are the literal worst, a multi-galaxy capitalist corporation with a monopoly on everything – including drinkable water, and they’re not afraid to let people die to get monarchs and planetary leaders to toe their party line. It’s gross as hell, and I was 110% behind Ari the entire time as she rounded up her knights, and Merlin, and went for them hard. But the authors balance the horrors of this destructive system with lighter moments really well, and it never loses the hope that kept me excited and reading forward.

As soon as I hit the end of this book, I just had to jump straight into Sword in the Stars, and my review of that will be up next week, but these books just scream out to be marathon-read and I can see myself coming back to them for light-hearted Arthurian hijinks.

Links:

Add it on Goodreads here!

Buy at Waterstones or Amazon (not affiliated) and if you can, please support your local indie booksellers!

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